HC Deb 10 November 1966 vol 735 cc1551-62
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House (Mr. Richard Crossman)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—A debate on Trade and Industry in Wales, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment.

Second Reading of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Bill [Lords,] which is a consolidation Measure.

TUESDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the London Government Bill.

Motion on the Redundancy Fund Contributions Order.

WEDNESDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Committee, when there will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on the Government's Attitude to the Free Enterprise System.

Remaining stages of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Bill [Lords.]

THURSDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER—Debate on the First Report from the Select Committee on Broadcasting &c, of Proceedings in the House of Commons.

FRIDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Annual Report and Accounts, 1965, of the British Waterways Board.

MONDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be: Supply [4th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Mr. Heath

May I ask three questions? First, on this afternoon's business, is the view of the Leader of the House and his right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Commonwealth Secretary still that which he expressed to the House last Thursday, that it would not be in the general interest to have a debate on the Rhodesia Order this afternoon, and that it should wait until the Government have had time to consider Mr. Smith's reply and come to their decision on it, when we shall have the debate that he has promised us?

Secondly, can he say whether the Committee stage of the London Government Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House?

Thirdly, on Thursday's debate on the televising of the House of Commons, is the Leader of the House aware that the Whips will not be on on this side of the House and that there will be a free vote, as there will be in the debate on procedure? Can he give us a similar assurance in respect of the Government side?

Mr. Crossman

On today's deliberations, our view is that it would be far better to wait for Mr. Smith's reply and the Government's considerations to be published before we debate Rhodesia. Having waited, we are determined to have a full debate on it. I hope that hon. Members will agree to this, although individual Members can do what they like.

On the London Government Bill, I know the right hon. Gentleman's keen interest in this matter and I shall certainly take it into account in considering where the Committee stage should take place.

On the question of television, the answer is "Yes". There will be a free vote on our side as well.

As regards procedure, I have nothing to add to what I said last week.

Mr. Mendelson

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to arrange for a debate within the next few days on the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon, so that the House will not be placed in a position in which it has an opportunity to debate this matter only at a stage when it has ceased to have the immediate impact that it had this afternoon? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that it will be far less important to stick to the business for next week than to have this debate within the next seven days?

Mr. Crossman

The views of the Government on this matter are the same as those of my hon. Friend. If it is the wish of the House—and my right hon. Friend made this quite clear—to alter the business for next week and have a debate on this subject we shall certainly consider it through the usual channels.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In view of the special nature of Thursday's business, and the fact that there is, over the greater part of it, a free vote on both sides of the House, will the Leader of the House make representations to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power so that Standing Committee D, on that Thursday afternoon, does not begin sitting at four o'clock, thus depriving hon. Members on both sides of the chance of listening to or taking part in a debate on a House of Commons matter?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in this subject, which he shares with me. I shall talk to my right hon. Friend about it.

Mr. Edelman

Will my right hon. Friend provide the time which is urgently needed for a full day's debate on the motor industry, in view of the developing chaos, which has now spread to Coventry?

Mr. Crossman

I know the interest of my hon. Friend in this matter, which he shares with me. This is a very big subject. I cannot give him any assurance on its being debated next week.

Mr. John Wells

In connection with Friday's business, will the Leader of the House so arrange the title of the debate that it will be in order to discuss the White Paper on Transport Policy as far as its waterways section goes, in addition to the annual report and accounts?

Mr. Crossman

I have to think about this very carefully. I am not sure whether I can give the hon. Member a precise answer. I should like to see him afterwards and discuss the question with him.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to debate the terrible disaster in Aberdeen—which is the subject of my Motion No. 252—as a result of which many workers were killed and families deprived?

[That this House is shocked by the recent collapse of the new building at the College of Technology in Aberdeen University, resulting in the loss of four lives and injuries to other persons; and is of opinion that the Government should set up a tribunal under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, to ascertain the technical and other defects which led to the collapse, to hear technical and other evidence, and also counsel for the dependants to ascertain and award compensation to the dependants.]

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that the whole House agrees with the first part of my hon. and learned Friend's Motion. As for the second part, I suggest that we await the Answer to the Written Question which he has on the Order Paper today.

Mr. A. Royle

Is the Leader of the House aware that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies was second on the list for answering Questions this Tuesday, but that next Tuesday, 15th November, for some unknown reason, he goes to the bottom of the list? Is this because Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to have the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) answering for the Colonies?

Mr. Crossman

That is not the reason. I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me advance notice of this question, because I have been able to get the right Answer. The answer is that the Commonwealth Office and the Colonial Office go together, and simultaneously move from the top to the bottom. In one sense, they are now departmentally united.

Mr. Edward Rowlands

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us on this side of the House are disappointed at the absence of any reference to the Second Reading of the Leasehold Reform Bill? Is he aware of the promise given before the Recess that on the passing of the Land Commission Bill the Leasehold Reform Bill would follow soon after?

Mr. Crossman

I do not remember any precise promise that the Leasehold Reform Bill would follow immediately after the passing of the Land Commission Bill, but I can assure my hon. Friend that work on it is going on very satisfactorily and that it will come on; and that we shall carry it out in due course.

Mr. Hastings

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of a debate at an early date on the state of the building industry? Certainly in my area, and I dare say in a number of others, morale in this industry is now at a new low and they would welcome a statement of the Government's intentions.

Mr. Crossman

I am always willing to consider a debate on anything. I shall consider this and see how much other demand there is for it in the House.

Mr. Wood

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle), as the position at the moment is not very satisfactory? Questions for the Colonial Office go down after Questions to the Commonwealth Affairs Office and, therefore, in theory, might never be answered.

Mr. Crossman

I will look at this again. This is something which we can discuss through the usual channels. If it is for the convenience of hon. Members, we shall certainly discuss it.

Mr. English

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that he will put down the Government Motion for Thursday on the Order Paper as soon as possible and not leave it until only the night before, so that we have no opportunity to consider it until the morning of the debate?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly. The Motion will go down as soon as possible.

Mr. Gilmour

The Government's White Paper on broadcasting seems to be receding rather than advancing. Would the right hon. Gentleman now tell us when, if ever, we may expect it?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I can add to the information which I have given and which my predecessor gave in previous weeks.

Mr. Steele

Would my right hon. Friend agree to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport about a discussion of the Government's White Paper on transport? Is he aware that we have had this Paper for some time and we have been promised legislation? I think that the House would want to discuss the implications of the White Paper before we were presented with a Bill.

Mr. Crossman

That is an interesting suggestion and we shall certainly consider it. We have a great deal to debate in the near future, and I can give no guarantee of a debate before we come to legislation, but, if there is a real demand in the House for it, we shall certainly consider it.

Mr. Lubbock

Reverting to the question of the Leader of the Conservative Opposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Leader of the Opposition."]—Leader of the Conservative Opposition. He is not my leader.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that, having declared his political position, the hon. Member will now come to his business question.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that business should be arranged to suit the convenience of the House and not the convenience of the two Front Benches and that there is no constitutional validity whatsoever in any agreement arrived at between him and his opposite number of these benches to deprive hon. Members of their traditional right of free expression?

Mr. Crossman

That is a very unfair observation. No one is seeking to deprive any hon. Member of any right. Let us be clear about this. We have a situation in which we have copied and published the reply from Rhodesia. It seems to some of us in the House common sense that we should wait to debate Rhodesia at the right time, but, if hon. Gentlemen insisted, I am the last person to say that they should be denied their rights. They may be unwisely abusing them.

Mr. C. Pannell

May I call my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 255?

[That this House deplores the conduct of the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale who, in Standing Committee D on 8th November, 1966, made a squalid personal attack, on the basis of only a newspaper report, on a right hon. Member who was not, and could not be, present, and refused to withdraw it even when categorically assured that the newspaper report was incorrect.]

This Motion refers to a personal attack in Standing Committee D. May we have a debate on it next week?

If I may address you now, Mr. Speaker, it is the well-considered practice of the House that, if any personal attack is made, the hon. Member who is the subject of it is usually given advance notice. The present situation arises because a Privy Councillor made an attack on another right hon. Member in a place in which he knew that the other right hon. Member could not answer. Therefore, this goes down to bedrock. We should have an opportunity of dealing with this rather reptilian episode——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We do not want arguments on merits at this stage, but business questions.

Mr. Crossman

On this Motion, I can understand the strong feelings about this personal attack. A considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members have put their names to the Motion and I would have thought that the simplest way to settle it would be for the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) to withdraw the remarks which he made.

Mr. Barber

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he were to be able to find time to debate this Motion, it would then be apparent to the House that I made no criticism——

Mr. Pannell


Mr. Barber

—of the Colonial Secretary's honour or integrity——

Mr. Pannell


Mr. Barber

—and that what I did was to criticise his ability, the lack of which, I believe, is self-evident?

Mr. Pannell


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a debate at business question time.

Mr. Mikardo

On the question which has just been raised, is my right hon. Friend aware that nobody who sat in Standing Committee D on Tuesday morning could have been in any doubt whatever that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) did constitute an attack going beyond—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into a debate on the merits. What hon. Gentlemen must do is press for a time for this to be debated. That is the object of business questions.

Mr. Crossman

Time for this matter has been pressed for now from both sides of the House, but I repeat—I say this after having heard the tone of voice in which the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale made his last remark—that this would all be ended if he would withdraw the imputation he made.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, last Friday, the Secretary of State for Scotland declared that it was not practicable to provide an estimate of the cost of the Selective Employment Tax in any particular area, whereas, on Monday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave precisely that information——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting away from the purpose of business questions. The hon. Gentleman knows what the object of business questions is. It is to ask for time to discuss something.

Mr. MacArthur

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. I will come immediately to my question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement next week about the cost of the Selective Employment Tax in the Highlands, to dispel or remove the belief that the cost of the tax will be £3 million—uncomfortably higher than the Government's original estimate of £2 million?

Mr. Crossman

I will not arrange that. It is for right hon. Gentlemen themselves to make statements and not for me to arrange them.

Mr. Dalyell

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that there is quite a number of Questions on science on today's Order Paper? Would it be possible to have a debate on science before Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

I know that a number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are interested in this subject, but I do not think it likely that we shall find time for a special debate on science before Christmas.

Mr. Fitt

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Motion No. 228, regarding the provision of an Ombudsman for Northern Ireland?

[That this House, while welcoming the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner, urge Her Majesty's Government to extend the powers of investigation of the Commissioner to those Ministries in Northern Ireland whose powers exist by reason of devolution under the Government of Ireland Acts 1920 to 1948.]

May I draw to his attention the fact that this Motion has been signed by over 100 hon. Members? As it is of such vital import to 1¼ million of Her Majesty's subjects in Northern Ireland, would he be prepared to give time to debate this very important Motion?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I will, as I gather that an Amendment in similar terms has now been tabled to the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill. We ought to see how that gets on in Standing Committee B.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

While I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about a future debate on Rhodesia, may I ask him whether we may have the assurance that Members on both sides will have an opportunity of expressing their views before there is any question of the Government making an approach on this question to the United Nations?

Mr. Crossman

This is becoming a regular weekly assurance. Certainly, there is no question. Yes, of course there will be a debate.

Mr. Rankin

On today's business, if it is accepted that Rhodesia will not encroach on the debate on Gibraltar, may we assume that the debate on Gibraltar will not encroach on the debate on aviation, which follows at 7 o'clock?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I should have thought that the arrangement by discussion through the usual channels would work throughout the afternoon.

Mr. Kirk

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when a statement will be made about the future of the third London airport, as the long delay is causing great distress and anxiety in certain parts of my constituency?

Mr. Crossman

I suggest that the hon. Member puts that down as a Question.

Mr. Kirk

I have done.

Sir G. de Freitas

May I return to the question of a debate about the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made after Questions this afternoon? Even if the Opposition do not ask for it to be held next week, will the Government provide time for a debate on this very important matter?

Mr. Crossman

I have made this perfectly clear. I want to ascertain, first, the opinion of the House through the usual channels; and that means the opinion of both sides of the House. If there is a strong demand for a debate next week, then the Government are prepared to find their share of the time for it.

Mr. Iremonger

Concerning Motion No. 251, which is about the scandal of the Great London Council's land grab—

[That this House deplores the decision of the Greater London Council to resort to compulsory purchase for housing within the London borough of Bromley, and declares such arbitrary and dictatorial action to be contrary to the spirit of the London Government Act, and gross interference with the freedom of the locally elected borough council.]

Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has studied my Amendment—

Line 4, at end add 'and furthermore recalls that the intention of this House was that the Greater London Council should get out of the housing business as quickly as possible; looks forward to the return of a Conservative majority in next year's elections which will give effect to that intention and thwart the Labour Party's plans to reduce the people of Greater London to the level of squalid serfdom which socialism invariably achieves in practice; meanwhile deplores the arrogance and bureaucratic ineptitude which this local authority inherited from the London County Councilas observed by the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater Londonwhich qualities are exemplified by its deplorable management of the Hainault estate in the constituency of the hon. Member for llford, North, and by its continuation of the London County Council's obnoxious practice of using its own employees to assess the compensation payable to private owners dispossessed of their homes through compulsory purchase instead of accepting the valuations fairly made by the independent district valuers, as is the common practice followed by other local authorities; and, finally, affirms that publicly subsidised and administered housing should be confined to supplying the needs of handicapped persons and that all other council property should be rapidly sold for private ownership'.

and give an assurance that he will give the House an opportunity to debate this septic syndrome?

Mr. Crossman

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have studied the Amendment and have admired the in-flamatory terms in which it is drafted. The housing plans of the G.L.C. and boroughs are now being considered by a joint committee which will report and which might help to reduce the hon. Gentleman's temperature a little.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members believe that the Companies Bill is extremely important and that many of us are disappointed that it has had to go to the House of Lords to be dealt with before coming to the House of Commons? Would my right hon. Friend give an assurance that our debates on this Bill will not be inhibited in any way and that we shall have our full right to make additions to or changes in the Bill if that is desired by this House?

Mr. Crossman

I can give that assurance with complete confidence. Of course, this House will retain its right to discuss the Bill, wherever it is started. Where it has started is a matter of the convenience of the legislative programme.

Mr. Abse

Would my right hon. Friend say what progress has been made with the Sexual Offences Bill?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir. As the Bill has now been passed twice in another place, and a strong expression of opinion on it has been shown in this House, we have decided to give half a day's time shortly before Christmas for the Bill.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Would my right hon. Friend reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), in view of the fact that the difficulties in the motor industry may soon have nation-wide implications?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot really reconsider saying that I will consider my hon. Friend's views.

Mr. Leadbitter

Would my right hon. Friend look again at the question of the personal attack which took place in Standing Committee B in view of a certain incident which I observed in the House, namely, that the Leader of the Opposition indicated approval of the remarks of his right hon. Friend—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This period is for business questions.

Mr. Leadbitter

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I am requesting the Leader of the House, in view of what I observed, to say that, since the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) has not got the guts to withdraw—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is seeking to discuss the issue. The purpose of this exercise is to ask for time in which to debate an issue.

Forward to